Style guide

Since 2008, Sadie Stein, AB’03, has been an editor at, a Gawker Media–owned blog that covers “celebrity, sex, fashion for women—without airbrushing.” It’s not your typical 9–5 job, but it’s one that requires an engaging writing style and wide-ranging knowledge of pop culture, politics, and even 19th-century English literature. Stein, 28, is in charge of the fashion beat, but she also shares the occasional personal story—such as the physical reaction she had last week to her first (yes, first) taste of Diet Coke—and puts her English degree to good use, arguing, for example, against New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd’s contention that Barack Obama is a modern-day Mr. Darcy.


QandA_QDrop.jpgOn, you write about fashion, pop culture, and women’s issues. What did you study in the College? Were you planning to be a writer at the time—or a fashionista?

QandA_ADrop.jpgI studied English—and wrote a “creative BA” as we called it then—so to the extent I was qualified for anything, I guess it was writing. In fact, both my parents write full time, so that always seemed like a realistic career option—realistic in both senses, because growing up around anything, you don’t romanticize it and are well aware of the challenges of making a living. As to fashion, I certainly never thought that would be a part of my professional life; in fact, my fourth-year roommate was the real stylish one—she worked at Harper and was known for her wardrobe of vintage suits. I did benefit from her closet.
QandA_QDrop.jpgHow did you get involved with Jezebel?
QandA_ADrop.jpgI was working in publishing for a while in New York, and when I left that to work from home and take on a ghostwriting project, I decided to get a part-time job in my Brooklyn neighborhood. A new boutique had opened nearby, and I became their first employee. And that's really how the Jezebel job came about; through the shop, which I loved, I got to know tons of people in the neighborhood, and a bunch of them became friends. A few of them were Jezebel writers. They'd started reading my blog—which I'd been keeping up, just for fun, since Paris [where I spent a year after graduation]—and when the fashion-oriented job opened up, they thought of me and brought me to the attention of the editor. It’s funny; I think because I worked at this store, everyone assumed I knew about fashion. In fact, I didn’t know anything! I liked wearing eccentric getups, but my knowledge of the actual fashion world was nil, and I had to learn on the job. I “auditioned” for about six months before becoming a full-time staffer, and I've been there ever since.
QandA_QDrop.jpgWhat makes Jezebel stand out among female-oriented blogs?
QandA_ADrop.jpgThe mix of subject matter, from news to social issues to reality TV, is genuinely engaging (I know some people rely on it for their news—and their Project Runway updates), and despite the range the site covers, there’s a distinctive point of view that manages to be irreverent without giving in to gratuitous snark. A lot of this comes from the fact that it’s just a terrific group of people—smart, funny, thoughtful, and I think that comes through. The commenters make a tremendous difference; their contributions are frequently hilarious, and the range of viewpoints is fantastic. It’s such a smart population—but at the same time, it’s a very respectful atmosphere (for the Internet!), which makes an incredible difference. We can actually engage and get to know each other in a way that’s very unusual.
QandA_QDrop.jpgWhat’s a typical workday for you? Where do you find your ideas for posts?
QandA_ADrop.jpgWe all start early in the morning and hit the RSS feed first thing. Then, most of us have scheduled posts—for instance, I do a fashion roundup called The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, so I’ll go to the photo sites and review the events from the night before. Our day’s schedule is variable: the editor, Anna, will generally send us ideas that caught her eye and correspond to our respective beats. We suggest our own ideas from things we’ve seen in the RSS or original ideas we might have come up with. We also have a great team of interns who send us links throughout the day. And it’s all subject to change throughout the day, of course, since the whole point of a blog is the ability to respond quickly to the news cycle. We rarely see each other in person—we almost all work from home—but communicate primarily through instant messaging. And once the day gets started, the pace is very fast. None of us breaks for lunch.
People always ask me if I get dressed, shower, etc. I do! In fact, I even put on a little makeup. I need to have a routine where I feel like I’m “going to work” in order to get in the right mindset. I admire people who are so on the ball that they can sit down at the computer and work in PJs, but I think I’d just spend the day on eBay and YouTube if I didn’t hew to my routine.
QandA_QDrop.jpgWhat advice do you have for aspiring fashion/women’s-issues bloggers?
QandA_ADrop.jpgRegardless of whether you hope to blog professionally, if you like to write, try keeping a blog: it’s a good discipline, it’s fun, and it’s good to be accountable to readers. Plus, it’s the best way to discover your voice. If something interests you, chances are it’ll interest someone else. Find bloggers you like, and read them regularly. Link to them if the spirit moves you. And good writing will win out, if you keep at it long enough.
QandA_QDrop.jpgWhy is fashion important?
QandA_ADrop.jpgIt’s important to distinguish between “fashion” and “clothes,” despite how inextricably they’re linked. I’ve always been more interested in the latter—the way people choose to express themselves has always fascinated me. That said, fashion, as an art form and an expression of mores, is pretty fascinating too, especially the way it trickles into popular consciousness. I come from a family that never thought much of fashion and tended to dismiss it as frivolous, but I think, even if you don’t, you know, care about Fashion Week, it’s a bit disingenuous to opt out of the conversation entirely. We live in a time when there are no fixed uniforms anymore; whether you like it or not, you’re forced to make aesthetic choices all the time and define who you want to be in the eyes of the world. It might as well be someone you like. As Mark Twain said, “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”

Elizabeth Chan

March 15, 2010